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Noteworthy

Find Martin County Rocks Hidden All Over Town, And Hand Paint Some Of Your Own

There are a million reasons why Martin County rocks, but now we've found one more.

Locals have been hiding hand-painted stones around town for other Martin County residents to find, giving the community a reason to get outdoors and connect with neighbors.

"Lots of friendships have been made over this, and the community has really come together," Stuart native and Martin County Rocks co-founder Cindy Wiley-Rhude said.

Wiley-Rhude and her daughter Kaitlynn Byrne launched Martin County Rocks around Thanksgiving, after Wiley-Rhude's sister, visiting from Lakeland, introduced them to the concept taking off in her town. (Similarly, the Lakeland Rocks founder adopted the growing trend after discovering it was already happening in Washington.)

Now, creative and colorful rocks with inspirational messages (think fortune cookie-style wisdom, or simple words like "Hope," "Smile," and "Peace") are hidden all over Martin County. Many feature clever depictions like henna tattoo patterns, sugar skulls, and Spongebob character sets. And on the back, some stones say "Martin County Rocks" to direct locals to the Facebook group where they can learn more.

People are encouraged to post a photo of their find on the group page, re-hide the rock, or replace it with a newly painted rock of their own.

"The more people paint and people hide and replace, the longer this is going to go on," Wiley-Rhude said.

Since the mother-and-daughter duo started the movement back in November, more than 16,000 people have joined the Martin County Rocks Facebook group. Local businesses like Stuart Ceramics and other art studios have even held free rock-painting get-togethers.

"I've been wanting to do something in the community, and this just fell in my lap," said Wiley-Rhude, whose family history in the area goes so far back that her great-grandfather was the first county sheriff.

Their first week hiding rocks, Wiley-Rhude and her daughter spotted a group of four young men at Indian Riverside Park playing Pokémon Go, an augmented reality game that has also been encouraging people to go outside, as users try to catch virtual Pokémon in their own neighborhoods. That evening, Wiley-Rhude was surprised to see those same men post in the Martin County Rocks group saying they had found the rocks.

"They said it was more fun for them to find the rocks than the Pokémon," she said.

Certain businesses are now leaving behind rocks for secret discounts, and several big events have featured a rock-hunting element—from rocks hidden around Martin County Fairgrounds to a special Martin Parks Rock collaboration at the Mansion at Tuckahoe that drew an estimated 2,000 visitors throughout the day.

What's more, the Martin County Rocks effort has taken on a charitable element. For instance, Martin County Rocks will be part of an upcoming event for the Treasure Coast Wildlife Center, and Wiley-Rhude and her daughter are also participating in a celebrity chef-style fundraiser for local nonprofit Madison's Miracles. (Psst. Stuart Magazine's own Kayla Walsh will be be there, too.)


Stuart Magazine is participating in Martin County Rocks! Let us know if you find one of our rocks hidden across Martin and St. Lucie counties starting the week of Feb. 20. Those lucky locals who do will be able to win prizes, such as gift cards and event tickets. Instructions on how to claim your prize are written on the back of each rock. 


Check out these examples of Martin County rocks locals have made or found:

Martin County
Courtesy Cindy Wiley-Rhude
hand painting
Courtesy Cindy Wiley-Rhude
Courtesy Cindy Wiley-Rhude
Courtesy Cindy Wiley-Rhude
Courtesy Cindy Wiley-Rhude
Sugar skulls by 2DK Design
Fortune cookie rocks by Andi Barbuto Professional Artist
Tie dye rocks by Alisa Marie Kintz
Beach rocks by Andi Barbuto Professional Artist

(Lead photo of Martin County Rocks co-founders Cindy Wiley-Rhude and Kaitlynn Byrne // Courtesy Cindy Wiley-Rhude)